While it was once considered taboo, dating online has now become a rather common way of dating for singles looking for love. Statista data indicates there are 44.2 million online dating users in the United States as of early 2022. Of those 44.2 million users, 77% of them have been on a date with someone they met online.
One of the biggest dangers with online dating is we often interact with people online about whom we know absolutely nothing. This is quite different from in-person dating, which often happens when we’re matched with someone through networking.
Dating strangers comes with risks, but it can also be a rewarding experience. A 2020 Pew Research Study found that 12% of adults said they found a committed relationship or marriage through online dating. If you’re looking for love online, we’ve gathered some tips to help you stay safe when looking for your perfect partner on the web.
1. Do not use your full name
When creating your online dating profile, it’s best not to use your full name. Norton suggests using a username you haven’t used on any other accounts, and avoiding using birth years or other searchable information about you.
It’s wise to use a username (that you haven’t used on any other social media profiles) or just your first name and last initial.
2. Use a different photo than your social media profile pic
If you use the same photo you’ve used on other social media profiles, anyone who encounters your profile can perform a simple reverse image search to learn more information about you from your social media accounts.
This opens you up to people who have ulterior motives, financial or otherwise. If you choose a picture not present on any other social media or work site, it may help make it more difficult for anyone on the site to find out info about you that you don’t want to share.
3. Do not share personally identifiable information in photos or text
Along these same lines, it’s also a good idea to avoid using personal data in your username and profile. It’s common for people to have usernames like CharlesJ1985 when the profile maker’s name is Charles Johnson, born in 1985. By providing your birth year, location information, job location or other personal information in your profile, you run the risk of sharing that information with the wrong people.
If you want to share more personal information about your life with someone you meet, you can always share that information over a phone call or video chat.
4. Research your date and image search your date’s photos
While it’s a good idea to avoid sharing your personal information, such information on other people’s profiles can help you when it comes to finding out more about a potential match.
Performing a reverse image search, searching a potential match in public records and looking to see if there’s any published information about your match can help promote safety.
In many cases, online daters want themselves and their potential dates to remain anonymous, but only during the initial match process. Once an online dater gets to know their potential match through conversation, they’ll often begin to share more information about themselves. This is a safer way to go about online dating, sharing information selectively with potential dates and asking for their information once you get to know them a bit better. A report by Freedating found that more than one in four users have felt harassed or uncomfortable because of another online dater, so fielding out potential match candidates through online chatting before meeting is a wise approach (albeit not a guarantee of safety).
5. Video chat before meeting in person
Before you ever even consider meeting in person with anyone you met online, it’s also a good idea to video chat with that individual to at least make sure you’re talking to the same person in the pictures. This can help reduce the possibility of catfishing (or using someone else’s pictures as your own and pretending to be someone else online).
When Freedating polled users on dating sites, almost 60% of them thought other users were putting false information on their profiles. This makes it all the more difficult to find someone genuine and sincere.
6. Meet in a public place not right near your house
If you decide to meet with someone you met online, meet in a well-populated area, during a time when there’s a lot of people around. Refrain from sharing a car with the new person until you get to know them better, and do not show them where you live.
“Gut reactions should never be underestimated. If you get a bad feeling, no matter how small, there is a reason behind it – whether you can articulate the reason or not,” said Wayne Hutton
Principal Investigator at ORISR Investigations. “The feeling is real. Back out and then figure out what you’re consciously, or unconsciously, cluing in on. Play a game of “What’s Wrong with this Picture.” It can easily turn out to be something minor, or nothing at all. But, if the feeling doesn’t go away though, it might be time to get some help to figure out what’s going on.”
According to data published on Propublica, the CJI surveyed around 1,200 women. Among this group, roughly one-third said they were sexually assaulted by a person they met online through a dating application.
To help promote your safety, make sure you meet your date somewhere where they cannot take you to a secluded area.
7. Before a date, tell someone where you’re going and share your location with a trusted friend
If you choose to meet up with someone you met through an online dating app, like Tinder, it’s wise to tell someone where you’ll be. It’s also a good idea to share your cellphone’s location with a trusted friend or family member. This way, if anything does go wrong, your family and friends can track your phone’s location.